The 108 sun salutation practice is the epitome of togetherness, the glorious mental and emotional reset and in many ways the triumph of love over fear. A room full of open hearted yogis who courageously leave their ego armor at the door and move, sweat, breathe and sing their way to freedom and do so together.
Less than a week ago, when this ever-unstable world got even more unstable, all classes, including the 108 practice, had to be canceled. I was going to do my own thing at home, but the together part is what makes this practice the magical experience that it is.
And just like when there’s a will, there’s a way, when there are open hearts yearning for healing through togetherness, nothing can stand in the way. We got together today, maybe not physically, but full heartedly all the same. And we moved, and sweated, and breathed and cried and sang and healed – together.
Thank you, my yogis, for joining me in this new way of continuing our together. We would have all preferred to share our practice in the same room to joining virtually but we joined, and that’s what matters and what heals.
This too shall pass.
Real hugs will return.
I love you ❤️
Many of you asked me to share the nine dedications that precede each round of 12 sun salutations, as well as the playlist. The dedications, and the songs I chose, start off very “human,” pained and dramatic even, although carrying an invitation to change our minds about the purpose of our pained and often dramatic and traumatic human life.
To make a choice for peace, we first have to look at the inner conflict. To rise, we first have to acknowledge that we have fallen. And to say no to the ego, or the fearful self, we first have to open our eyes and hearts to the presence of that fear inside of us.
As we continue this moving meditation (and it is definitely moving in more ways than just the physical), we gradually loosen our attachment to the little self, the part of us that feels insecure, trapped, fearful and alone. Because we have turned toward the fears of the seemingly separate “me,” we have diffused the power of that false self to reign over us. We slowly detach from the mask – the person – and move toward presence, the spirit and unbound love that we are in reality. Having remembered our true Self, we rejoice in the connectedness to the home we never left, even if that joy seems very temporary.
Truth is always true, just like illusion is never true, so even the tiniest moment of Self-remembrance is enough inspiration to move us forward on our way back home. As we continue to navigate the uncertain waters of this human experience, we find that we meet life’s lessons with a little more grace, trust and openheartedness.
This is the purpose of our practice of 108 sun salutations: looking at and moving through the changeful as we remain grounded in the changeless, ultimately remembering that we ARE the changeless and that the changeful has had no effect whatsoever on our reality as spirit.
Here are the dedications, followed by the songs I played for the respective round of sun salutations:
1 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to my human, imperfect self. Deep in my gut, I know that achieving perfection as a human being is not only impossible, but an unnecessary burden that keeps me stuck in fear and self loathing. Deep in my heart, I know that as a soul, I am progressing on my path just as I planned and that every experience I had and am yet to have is a perfectly chosen piece of my soul’s mosaic. I am a perfect expression of my divine nature in this imperfect human form. And so it is.
Superman by Rachel Platten
Heroes Fall (feat. Essa) by Hidden Citizens
2 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to all my fears, and all the aspects of myself I consider dark and negative. Remembering my own choice to experience the full spectrum of human emotion — the so called positive as well as the so called negative — I’m now making a promise to myself to own all the aspects of my personality that I have disowned out of fear of being seen as unworthy of love. In the name of love, which is what I am, I allow every fear, every feeling and every thought that arises to be fully integrated in my experience, so I can live with integrity, knowing that darkness is simply unawakened light and fear is nothing but a confused expression of love. And so it is.
Land of Confusion (Epic Trailer Version) by Hidden Citizens
Nothing Is As It Seems (feat. Ruelle) by Hidden Citizens
3 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to every obstacle yet to appear on my path. As I look back on my life, I can see that every seeming hurdle eventually provided impetus for my own growth and was therefore a gift. Bravely embracing my fear of the unknown — not pushing it away — I fully trust that whatever hardship and pain are yet to appear on my path are simply part of my path, remembering that ultimately, all of life is the path. And so it is.
Here We Stand by Hidden Citizens & Svrcina
Awake My Soul by Mumford & Sons
Believer by Imagine Dragons
4 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to all those who have ever shown me love. Every expression of love, no matter how small or infrequent it may seem to occur, completely imbues my being with the totality of All That Is, which is love. I give thanks to each and every being whose love fills my heart with the ancient song that reminds us all that love is all there ever was, is and will be. May we all be overwhelmed with love. And so it is.
Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas
Carry You (feat. Fleurie) by Ruelle
5 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to all those who have hurt me, including myself. I know that every act that doesn’t come from love is simply a disguised call for love. Lack of love is evidence of the hurt we all carry in us, the hurt that stems from our ignorance of our true nature and the forgetfulness of our joint source, which is love. I ask love to show me the way every time I’m tempted to believe that I can be hurt. And as I give love and forgiveness to others, no matter what they have given to me, I know that I’m graced with love and forgiveness. And so it is.
Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons
Man In the Mirror (Acoustic) by James Morrison
6 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to the uncertainty every day brings. I give up whatever illusion of control I think I have over life, and instead choose to courageously surrender to the gifts of grace that abound in each moment. Knowing that who I am in reality can never be hurt or damaged, and that I can’t possibly ever fail or fall short, I allow life to come to me as is does. Expecting nothing and welcoming everything, I now promise to stop fighting with life and instead fully cooperate with what is. And so it is.
We Get By (feat. Ben Harper) by Mavis Staples
Carry On by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young
7 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to the eventual death of this temporary human form I inhabit. I open my mind to the possibility that any fears I may have regarding death are fears of my ideas of death and not death itself. As I listen to the whisper of my soul, which constantly reminds me that I have been on many such journeys countless times before, I remember that reality is infinitely larger than my human side can ever perceive. As a brave soul who chose to temporarily forget its immortality, I celebrate life and embrace my fear of death until that fear itself dissolves into my timeless recognition that life does not start or end, but simply changes form. And so it is.
I’ll Fly Away by Rising Appalachia
Down to the River to Pray (feat. Sonia Isaacs) by Wanda Vick
Sun is Shining by Bob Marley & the Wailers
8 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to all teachers that have appeared on my path and those yet to appear on my path, knowing that everyone and everything that teaches me about myself and helps my growth is my teacher. My heart is full of gratitude for those who have taught me through love as well as for those who have taught me by withholding love. How blessed I am to have been graced with teachers in human form and beyond, those born and unborn, and even those only my subconscious can perceive. I now can see clearly that this earth life, which seems full of suffering, is a school and that teachers and teachings abound in every moment, and I choose to learn as much as I possibly can, ultimately remembering that the only lesson to be learned is that love is all there is. And so it is.
Bring Me to Life (Synthesis) by Evanescence
Light of a Clear Blue Morning by Maggie Thorn
9 ~ I open my heart and offer my light to the ultimate source, the divine creator, infinite spirit, God, All That Is. How can I possibly live in suffering if I choose to connect to that which I’m never disconnected from? How much longer do I want to live in ignorance of my true nature, seeing myself as a separate little body when all the glory of God has been inside me all along? Once I was blind, and I forgive myself for that, but now I have opened my eyes and I see that I am That which I seek. My search for God has always been my yearning to know myself, and now that I realize what I am, I can’t help but lift my head and laugh at the sky. And so it is.
Why do we so fervently fear the experience of a broken heart?
The way I see it, we must fear it because of the fear. In and of itself, what’s so horrifying about the process of grief?
Can the heart, and by heart I mean the symbol of spirit or true self, actually be broken? How can the unlimited and unbound be anything less than perfectly and eternally free? Free of pain, free of breakage of any kind, free of grief.
“Whatever suffers is not part of me,” A Course in Miracles reminds me.
So I, the human, let the waves of grief come and go, without analyzing, fighting or resisting. I keep dancing despite the limp. I filter the grief through love, rather than through fear, by asking love to show me the real meaning and purpose of grief.
And as I keep dancing with the limp, love shows me that nothing real can ever be broken, lost or separated from itself. It only appears that way, only in the dream, or nightmare, of individual existence that we, hypnotized by fear, value so much.
Fear takes me to hell, while love grounds me in truth.
So whether I laugh or cry, whether I gracefully glide or stumble with a limp, I ask and keep asking love to have this dance. And the next. And the next. And love always, always, always gently whispers…yes.
What are you consuming emotionally, mentally, energetically and spiritually?
Everywhere we turn, we seem to be bombarded with opportunities to distract ourselves from the root causes of our pain, sadness, frustration, anger and fear. Instead of a compassionate, patient and honest — and private — inquiry into our own wounds, we latch onto the conveniently pre-packaged and heavily concentrated opinions, beliefs and views of reality as they are sold to us by the media, the pop culture and other offshoots of the mainstream mind and soul numbing machine. We adopt these ready-made life “facts” as our own, without even realizing that we have been fed toxic garbage our entire lives.
Some of us digest this sort of garbage easier than others, and we keep on “keeping on,” until we can’t keep on any more, in this lifetime at least. Some seem to even thrive on the soul sucking, fear and separation hungry energy being hurled at us from all angles. But those of us who find the ready-to-wear opinions, beliefs and “facts” of the mainstream extremely difficult to digest, those of us who have been nauseated by the spoon-fed version of reality since before we could even understand why it was so, those of us who yearned for a better way, a brighter world, a love-infused life rather than wishing for fame, success and recognition: we are the ones who have chosen to detox from illusion and drink and eat from truth instead. And just like with any detox, things seem to get hell of a lot worse before they get better, but they do get better.
So ask yourself again: what am I consuming energetically and spiritually? What sort of mental and emotional food am I choosing for myself? To what sources am I turning this day, and every day, for my daily bread? If you don’t like the taste of what you have been consuming, it’s time for a detox. Unplug, get quiet, learn to be alone with yourself — regularly — and repeat the process until the process itself becomes your daily bread. All the guidance you have been seeking and all the facts you thought you needed to find out who you are, and what the world is for, are waiting for you and have been waiting for you nowhere else but within you.
When I was a little kid, my brother, who’s five years older than me, told me once that I was actually adopted. He said I fell out of a gypsy wagon that came through town and our parents felt sorry for the lost gypsy baby so they took me in and raised me as their own kid. He told me I could never tell our parents because if I did, they’d have to take me back. We laugh about it now, but back then, it was a little scary because I believed him, at least for a while: until I realized that I look just like my dad and not very gypsy like. But this “fake news” my brother fed me as a joke never actually shocked or terrified me because I could see, even at single digit age, that it was possible I was adopted because I always felt out of place growing up with my family.
Of course I spent my childhood and teenage years, and most of my 20s, to be honest, feeling misunderstood by my family and wishing they’d see me for who I was. I’m sure my story sounds at least somewhat familiar to your experience. We humans are not very original in our issues, although we often feel like we’re the only person who’s ever felt insecure, unworthy and unloved. The shift happened within me when I finally realized that my being different, or at least feeling different, was such an enormous gift, and maybe the most valuable lesson I’m to learn in this lifetime: Find out who you are even though, and especially when, the people closest to you can’t validate for you who you are.
In other words, learn to stand your ground when the ground feels so shaky that standing seems like a ridiculous idea.
To stand your ground in no way implies we insist that other people understand, appreciate or even like us. It’s not at all a demand that people change their ideas, opinions and behaviors. Standing your ground is completely about YOUR ground, and your ground has nothing to do with anyone else. Which is why this lesson is so damn hard to learn and implement.
The human side of us is hardwired to seek approval and validation from other people. We all have learned very early on in life that displaying certain behaviors and expressing particular feelings may result in love being withheld by our parents and other people we depended on. Since we’re also hardwired to seek love, we learned to modify ourselves to create a version of ourselves we thought would get maximum love and approval. And along the way, we found that we have lost the ability to stand our own ground. When I’ve replaced who I am with a watered down version of who I think I should be to be seen as worthy and lovable, how can I possibly know where my own ground even is? Also, all this seeking for love and approval has somehow left us hungrier for love and approval.
Is this being human a cruel cosmic joke because it seems the harder we try to gain love and validation the less we feel loved and validated?!
That’s because we have been seeking in the wrong place: outside of ourselves. All the times you have felt misunderstood, unsupported, invalidated and unworthy of love were quiet but persistent invitations to turn the direction of your seeking from without to within. After spending years and decades and, who knows, probably even lifetimes trying to stand on someone else’s ground to feel safe, we figure out at some point that standing on our own ground is the only way to feel that connection we have craved for so long. Because the connection we crave is not from them to us, but from us to us.
To be able to stand your ground you first must find out what your ground is. No matter what anyone thinks of you and no matter what you think they’re giving to you or withholding from you: what is YOUR ground? Finding that out is the beginning of a beautiful relationship with yourself, and the start of renewed relationships with the people in your life.
I won’t tell you to stand up for what you believe, to fight for what’s right for you or to say no to what you don’t want. Because once you find out what your ground is, you’ll figure out the rest with relative ease. You may not know in every instance what you want, but you’ll know what you don’t want. You may not always know what to do, but you’ll know what not to do. You may not quite know who you are, but you’ll know who you’re not. And you won’t need to justify yourself or defend your choices because you will feel secure, standing on your own ground.
I mentioned earlier that the light came on for me when I realized that my biggest lesson was finding out who I am even though the people I loved and depended on couldn’t validate for me who I was. They couldn’t validate that for me because they couldn’t validate that for themselves either. Everyone is chasing their own tails just like you and I did, or still do, not realizing that each one of us has the sought-after tail and it’s been attached to us all along.
Standing your ground requires a great amount of courage to look within for love. The side effect of our remembering that we are love is instant compassion for ourselves and every other human being because we finally see that we’re all playing the same game of hide and seek, while forgetting that we chose to play that game. We’re all hiding from ourselves and looking for ourselves and the only way to find ourselves is to find the ground on which we stand and have been standing this whole time.
Emotions are simply energies that are meant to be in motion. They are designed to move into our awareness and be felt in our bodies and at some point move out. They move in to teach us something about ourselves and they move out when we learn what we needed to learn. Just like in school, learning certain lessons takes longer than we expect. And just like in school, we sometimes duck from learning the harder lessons altogether but eventually we realize that there’s no way to escape the needed curriculum.
I often use this food analogy to explain, to myself as much as to my yogis, how emotions work: We take in food and eventually we eliminate it out of our bodies but between the intake and elimination, there is a process of digesting, assimilating and metabolizing the nutrients. And so it is with emotions: Once the emotion is in our system, it has to go through a certain process before it can leave us. That process, however it looks and however long it takes, has to leave us with certain “nutrients,” or insights about ourselves, our relationships or life in general before it can come to completion.
Would you eat and expect the food to be eliminated out of your system right away? That would leave you without the needed nutrients, which is why you eat to begin with. We all know how horrid that feels because we’ve all had food poisoning or the stomach flu. So why do we expect certain emotions to immediately leave us, just because they may be unexpected or unpleasant? If they’ve entered our system, they’ve done so for a reason (and just like with food, we let those emotions in voluntarily, even if we may not be aware we did). Finding out why these emotions are here now and what lessons they carry with them won’t happen if we short-circuit their natural unfolding process by skipping the steps of emotional digesting, assimilating and metabolizing.
Sometimes we use the opposite, and equally unhealthy and counterproductive dodging technique by holding on to emotions for years or decades. We don’t keep these emotions prisoner within ourselves because it feels good, but because we’re trying to bypass the lesson we need to learn. But back to my food analogy, would you eat, day after day, and just refuse to poop? I know, it’s gross and unnatural and unhealthy. But that’s my point.
No one can tell us how long any given process of emotional digesting, assimilating and metabolizing will or should take. Asking such a question is just the ego mind’s attempt to subvert the self-discovery process by skipping the steps between the beginning and the end. The mind is always focused on the beginning, which is the past, and the end, which is the future. No wonder believing our thoughts causes so much indigestion.
See what would happen if you just trusted the process by shifting from thinking and analyzing to feeling and being. As long as you’re having this human experience, you will feel because that’s part of the game of being human. A feeling is only negative when it’s repressed, when it’s not allowed to be felt. That’s all any emotion asks of us: let me be felt without the ego mind’s incessant judgment and commentary. And as soon as the emotion is given space to be, to digest, it will bow out on its own, leaving you nourished by the insight it came to bring you in the first place.
After a simple guided meditation, one of my students candidly and courageously admitted that her mind was as busy as ever and that she felt a sense of almost panic. I assured her that was a normal reaction of the ego and told her that “the mind is a bitch, but you don’t have to be your mind’s bitch.”
The meditation was as simple as can be (and simple does not imply easy): I guided my students to simply observe: first to notice all sounds, then the outer edges of their bodies, on to the their mental activity and finally their breath. Some types of more creative guided meditation can be relaxing and very helpful, but the ego mind can sort of co-opt the experience and appoint itself as the producer of the calm you feel as the result of the meditation. There is a misconception that meditation should always make us feel good. Meditation is a practice of guiding us to truth, and the way there is not always a spa like experience.
The purpose of the simple, bare bones meditation I chose for my students the other day was to point to that part of us that’s always observing what is, without evaluating it, judging it to trying to change it. Which is why this meditation can be so difficult: the ego mind finds itself out of its job since the ego is the part of us that is constantly analyzing, judging and commenting on what it perceives. Out of its job, the ego mind starts to panic, and does whatever it can do get its job back. Hence the anxiety during the meditation.
Experiencing discomfort or even panic like my student did is in no way a bad thing, no matter how much the mind despises states it labels as negative. It’s not a sign of spiritual immaturity or proof that you’re a messed up person. The only thing this meditation, whatever it looks like for you on any given day, proves is that there is something in you that is aware of the perpetual fear mongering of the mind. It’s a powerfully healing and extremely insightful technique of exposing the mind for what it is: a set of beliefs and a collection of thoughts held in place only because of our overwhelming fear to look beyond this whole construct.
Remember the Wizard of Oz? Once Dorothy sees that behind the curtain is not the great and all powerful Wizard of Oz, but just an ordinary guy who learned to perform some clever tricks, she starts to realize that she had been worshipping a ghost. What a great metaphor for our own process of exposing the fake authority of the ego mind. The ego may be the king of clever tricks, and the cleverest trick it has up its sleeve is convincing you that it IS you. But a trick is just that: an illusion. And no illusion can sustain itself indefinitely.
So don’t be afraid to sit in meditation, friends. The purpose of meditation is not to check out of reality and magically slip into some blissed out state. That may happen, of course, because anything can, but any projected outcome is just the mind’s attempt to control the process. The ego mind will do anything to keep you believing that you have no choice but to be its bitch. And that’s exactly why the ego doesn’t like simple meditations that leave it temporarily unemployed: you finally get a taste of freedom from it because you see that there is a presence in you that is aware of the ego mind and therefore not subservient to it.
This process shows us what it means to be present. It’s not a matter of forcing the “me” to somehow drop all thought and stop being human. The part of me that identifies as that “me” can’t be in the now because it can’t accept what is; it’s not equipped to do that unless what is happening agrees with what it wants (and that never lasts long). But the other part of me that’s aware of the “me” can and always does live in the now and has already accepted what is; it always accepts what is because it doesn’t see itself as separate from what is, which is life. Shifting to a state of presence, or freeing yourself from the mistaken belief that you have to be your mind’s bitch, is as simple as adjusting your focus from the mind to that which is aware of the mind’s activity.
This is the great secret that is not a secret at all: To experience freedom, you don’t have to change yourself or your surroundings or your circumstances. You don’t need to wait for that elusive one day. But you do have to be brave enough to pull open the curtain of the ego mind. Like Dorothy, you will find that the power and greatness you sought were in you all along, and you will be able to take yourself back home and, at the same time, realize that you never left home.